Lovefool 05.09.22 | Sailin’ The Good Ship

When the response to most comic book romantic pairings is an unsurprised "Oh. Duh.", what’s a dedicated shipper to do?



File this one under Not-So-Secret Lovefool Confessions but here it is: I am a shipper. It’s true. I almost have to be with this gig but I try not to talk about it too much. And I’m not talkin’ about anything to do with packing tape. Name a popular modern fandom and there’s a pretty decent chance I am prepared to go toe-to-toe with you over some very important issues of romance scholarship. Harry Potter? Harry and Hermione. Hermione’s way too good for dumbass Ron. She is a heroine in her own right and, therefore, should theoretically end up with a hero, yeah? But no, the most brilliant witch in a generation ends up shackled to the emotionally-stunted bumbling eventual hero. Sure, Ron Weasley was kind of hot there, at the end, and eventually came around but still, come on! I haven’t seen a single movie since Book 7 came out, I’m so bitter. What’s the point? Doctor Who? I actually have “The Doctor + Rose 4eva!” written on a stripe on my ratty old pair of Sambas. And you know what? I bet it’ll end up on my new ones once I get them broken in. Firefly? I was ridiculously frustrated watching Simon and Kaylee circle each other but, oddly, was kind of not very invested in Mal and Inara, who should’ve set off all my beeps. Beautiful and kind of weird woman and darkly funny and smokin’ hot dude? Both with Pasts of various sorts? It seemed almost a foregone conclusion so I never thought about it that much. Okay. But Simon was so clueless and so different from Kaylee that I wondered if they’d ever get it together. And maybe that was the appeal for me. I like dark horses. I believe in impossibility. And, most importantly, I want to wonder.
Honestly, I wonder if comics even have dark horses? I can’t help but wonder because we hardly ever see it. Maybe it’s just me but, often, when characters get together, all I can come up with is a “Oh. Duh.” And then it just is. I’ve never seen a convention panel on the ramifications of the hook-ups of the X-Men in a con program even though there totally could and should be. (We’re going to go back to my favorite superhero couple and you can’t stop me if you’ve heard this one before. I am sorry.) (Only a little, though.) There was that whole Tony and Pepper, will-they-or-won’t-they thing that we’ve discussed before, but who else was honestly around for Tony to hook up with? Sure, they threw us with Happy, but did anyone actually doubt that Tony and Pepper would end up together? Were there passionate debates on the internet about it? Surely, someone else out there has had a drunken conversation about this and/or other comic book characters, right? Has someone ever called someone else mean names for their opinion that Ms. Potts (or any other not-super lady) would get in the way of Tony’s drinking and heroism?
There are, of course, some problems with the idea of comic shipping, two of which I just pointed out – chicks do tend to put a spanner in the works sometimes. Time spent talking about a hero’s feelings with/about a lady is time that they’re not spending having adventures, for the most part. A lot of mainstream comics tend to leave very narrow areas of focus and why shouldn’t they? They still sell, right? So sometimes romance just doesn’t make the cut. Or there’s no mystery. Seriously, would Jimmy Olsen ever even have had half a chance? Of course not. Webcomics, however, have mystery and, therefore, shippers. There was a nerdy hipster uproar when Jeph Jacques broke up Martin and Dora over at Questionable Content. Manga has shippers. But manga almost builds that in for itself with the love triangle being almost an essential part of a lot of manga. So is it possible that shipping is a genre thing exclusively? A gender thing?
Over burritos and potato oles at Taco John’s, I had this conversation with my ever-patient husband, who is so used to my Sunday night column writing fits and starts and seemingly random questions that I think he’s come to expect them. What, I asked him, does he look for in a comic book? Did he ever wonder if Batman had a steady girlfriend? Did he think that would ruin the character? (For the record, even I am hard pressed to see Batman actually successfully dating someone. Unless it’s Jakita Wagner of Planetary.) Eventually, the conversation meandered around to Spider-Man who, according to Mr. Jameson, “always had some drama at home.” And then and only then did I finally hit on the ship for dudes: Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy vs. Mary Jane Watson.
Of course, that’s been resolved since 1973, but thanks to endless reboots and clones and whatever, Peter Parker will have to choose, again and again, which girl is going to win his heart. And so will we. Terry Moore’s chosen Gwen Stacy but wrote an arc of Spider Man Loves Mary Jane where, umm, the end of the story is in the title of the book. Stan Lee, of course, just intended for MJ to be a plot device and it all kind of snowballed from there into comics and movies and cartoons and action figures and, yes, that one statuette. But with Mary Jane seemingly, possibly, written out of the big picture and only about a million Gwen Stacy clones out there, who knows what could happen? So pick, nerdlings, again and again – Gwen or Mary Jane? Keep in mind, though, that it’s not Gwen Stacy appearing in two-pack Minimates with Peter Parker.
In the meantime, I’ll be over here quietly hating Ginny Weasley and wondering if Bleu Finnegan will ever date a boy for real and being pretty sure that it should be Alan because, seriously, Mr. Bishop is way too old for her and that’s inappropriate, even though he’s awesome and perfect, okay? And of course Peter should be with Mary Jane and, hopefully, Joe Q puts his editorial money where his shipper mouth is and makes that happen again. | Erin Jameson

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